Thursday, 18 July 2013

Meeting the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

I met with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) at a parliamentary reception where it launched its new report which reveals a regional variation in access to cataract surgery across England.

Cataract surgery is safe and has been shown to be both cost effective and clinically effective. However I  was deeply concerned to find out that many patients are missing out on the vital surgery simply because of this postcode lottery.

This is an issue I have written to NHS East Lancashire CCG to ensure that cataract provision is meeting demand and that no patient is being denied treatment in the area. I will also be writing to Earl Howe requesting that NHS England establish a National Clinical Director for Eye Health, and asking for NICE to prioritise the production of its cataract clinical guideline and quality standard.

Clara Eaglen, RNIB Eye Health Campaigns Manager, said:

"Regional variation has created a postcode lottery which is simply unacceptable. NHS 'efficiency savings' achieved by cutting cataract operations are a false economy. Denying treatment leaves patients at risk of depression, social isolation and fall-related hip fractures. Treating mental health conditions and repairing hip fractures are substantially more costly to the NHS and social care services than cataract surgery.

"We believe there is a clear need for a National Clinical Director for Eye Health. Without such a champion inside the NHS there is every danger that eye health and cataract surgery will yet again be sidelined."

About RNIB

Everyday around 100 people in the UK start to lose their sight. There are around 2 million people in the UK with sight problems. RNIB is the leading charity working in the UK offering practical support, advice and information for anyone with sight difficulties. If you, or someone you know, has a sight problem RNIB can help. Call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 or visit